So this is going to be the first of the “Process of Creation” posts I discussed in my “A Few Changes” post that I put up a couple weeks ago. I don’t have a real plan here, so I thought the best way to start might be to just discuss the things I’m working on, and the things I’m planning for the future.
Things I’m working On:
Horizon Review: The Flesh Eaters
A few weeks ago, Red Molly and I watched an obscure little 1964 movie called The Flesh Eaters. Black and white, Fifties atomic horror feel with a definitely non-Fifties level of gore, its primary claim to fame is that its existence caused George Romero to change the name of his ferocious little 1968 indie film to Night of the Living Dead. I’ve been chipping away at a review ever since.
Yes, it’s going slowly.
If anyone reading this has been following this blog since the beginning (no seriously, is there anybody?), they may remember that there used to be a lot more movie reviews. They were – and are, when I can manage to grind one out – a decent draw in terms of pageviews. Between that and the fact that I’m at least somewhat of a genuine film buff who likes to share my discoveries with others, I’ve had plenty of reason to keep grinding them out even now that it’s coming harder.
But I’m starting to realize that a lot of the movies I reviewed early on were movies that I felt really passionate about, and I’ve almost exhausted my store of those. Without that passion, it seems like a lot of time and effort (both of which could be better spent) to produce things that are only tangentially what this blog is about.
I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe I’ll just return to my remaining stock of “Passionate About ‘Em” movies, and once those are finished, only do reviews when I discover new ones. Just in case I don’t finish this one, the Cliff’s Notes version is: Surprisingly nuanced and well-acted, surprisingly well-made for being shot essentially in someone’s back yard, surprisingly good monsters for being made with the director’s pocket change. Highly recommended for the horror hound and lovers of obscure cult movies.
The Pewter Angel
My prequel to Neighborhood Witch. In this story, we get to know Brian a little better and Aracelli much better. Set in their college years (which just so happen to coincide with my own), we see what brought them together, how the Pewter Angel was created (short answer: halfway between beginner’s luck and a terrible accident), and why Aracelli is so determined not to follow in her mother’s footsteps, even though she has such talent for the work.
The plan is to tell this story in three parts – three separate demonstrations of the Angel’s power – and it’s already shaping up to be a long one, almost certainly longer than the original story. The ultimate goal here is to create a full-size novel or two where the supernatural community of NYC has to deal with a larger threat, but that’s long in the future.
Midnight Theatre Games
I’ll go into this in greater length – significantly greater length – when I write my introductory blog post, but here’s the gist:
What I’m trying to create here is a generic tabletop roleplaying game for horror. Rather than being focused on any one genre (zombies, steampunk, cosmic horror, angsty vampires or Hammer-esque gothic horror, to name just a few), it would give players the tools to game in any genre of horror. The tagline is “A game about the many kinds of fear”.
(Genre-specific rules can be discussed in later supplements, after I complete the core book.)
(Confession time: the rules as they stand are tilted more than a little toward the “fearless monster hunters” style of play. Again, something that will probably be discussed more in the introductory blog post.)
This project is actually running into delays for the opposite reason from the movie reviews: I’m actually very excited about it and enjoy working on it, but I keep pausing work on it because (until I started discussing it here), I didn’t see the project contributing to my overall writing career, and so couldn’t justify it to myself.
Another delay is that I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months cutting material from the core book on the theory of making it the same length as many other tabletop rpg rulebooks out there…and now I’ve decided to transfer most of it back in. Hell with it – if it’s 400 pages long, it’s because I’m providing a lot of options, which was the whole point to begin with.
Things I’m Planning for the Future.
I love Coney Island. I haven’t exactly made a secret of this.
I love Coney Island as it is, but I’ve long since realized a certain truth about myself: when I’m walking the boardwalk and the beach, imagining hot summer teenage nights, I’m not actually imagining Coney Island as it ever was (certainly not as it was in the early Nineties, when I was a teenager). When I do that, I’m walking the dream of Coney Island.
And that’s okay. In Coney Island Lost and Found, Charles Denson – who was born and raised and lived most of his life in Coney – says that nostalgia has always been part of the spirit of Coney Island.
But that realization led me to an interesting thought: what if there were people who could actually walk the Dream of Coney Island – the dream of the place itself, the Coney Island that ought to be and that the real Coney Island is working to become. Of course, Coney Island wouldn’t be the only place with such a Dream; everyplace must have one, though Coney’s is probably more colorful and vivid than most.
And of course, if there’s a Dream, there’s also a Nightmare…
I’m pretty excited about this idea. For one thing, this story (series?) will be my love letter to Coney Island. For another, this feels like one of the first things I’ve done that feels truly original. The idea that I may be Finding My Voice…that’s something every writer hopes for.
Still, it may be a while before I get to this one, and still longer before I get anything out. You see, I’ve decided to make the protagonist an aspiring theatre person, freshly arrived in New York. After all, they’re the classic dreamers of New York City. However, I’ve never been one of them, so that means I need to talk to a few of them – ideally quite a few of them – if I’m to have any hope of verisimilitude. What’s more, I need to do at least some research on Coney itself (along with some other neighborhoods). In short, it’s going to be a while before I’m ready to even start working on this one.
I’m considering the idea of recording the interviews and uploading them to my Youtube channel (with the interviewees’ permission, of course). Seems like one possible way to produce material and drum up interest. Thoughts?
This story is vying with Dreamwalkers to be my next large project (though probably not as large; I certainly don’t see making a Hometown-like behemoth out of this thing), and at the moment, it’s winning, because I think it will be relatively fun and easy to write. The idea is that it’s going to be a slasher story with several twists, one of which is that the kids who usually die first – i.e., the bad kids, especially the bad girl – are our heroes.
My only concern is that, by the nature of slashers and the nature of my chosen main characters, this story is going to be racier than any I’ve done before. In fact, that’s part of the plan: the idea here is that this story will be my entrée into doing racier fiction in general. Here I’m thinking of stories involving Pan (a god of wilderness and madness, remember – imagine what he could do to a small isolated town), the Bacchae, my own take on the Sirens, and a return visit to Deer Woman.
It’s something I want to do, and I think it’ll be fun (I’m hesitant to say something as grand as Finding My Voice, but I’m not ruling it out either), but it’s still a little nerve-wracking. Still, from what I’ve read at the blogs of various exotic and burlesque dancers, the first time you get naked in public is the scariest.
The Guardian Cats of New York City
This series is experiencing problems similar to the Flesh Eaters review: it’s stalled. My original plan was to complete 2.5 more stories and then roll them all up into an ebook/print collection, complete with cover art that I commissioned instead of buying from Shutterstock. Instead, those remaining 2.5 stories are just kind of…sitting there. Inert.
I think that part of the problem is the contradiction between the inherent cuteness of the central conceit – cats with supernatural powers defending humans from the threats that would slip beneath our own paranormal champions’ radar – and the seriousness with which I treat it. Yes, I play up the fact that they’re the Children of Bast, and I do my best to make their foes a thematic fit (the threat in one of the remaining stories is a Rat King with full powers as a Bringer of Plague), but sometimes even I feel like I’m sending the Care Bears up against Sauron.
It doesn’t help that they haven’t exactly been a blockbuster commercial success. One or two of them still don’t have a sales ranking on Amazon. I’m starting to wonder if I should just abort the whole thing, roll the existing stories up into my planned urban fantasy/horror collection, and leave it at that.
Other Upcoming Changes
I know I’ve made this resolution before, but I always stray from it, and that can’t keep happening. I can’t keep trying to work on two or three projects at once, and getting maybe a few paragraphs done on each per day.
What I need to do is focus on one project at a time, ideally one per week. One week equals one movie review, one book chapter, one section of rulebook, one short story (or section of a longer one), one large blog post like this one – one majorish project of some kind. Any other blog posts in a week might be reblogs, Youtube collections, low-effort stuff like that.
Working at this pace is going to frustrate me, all the more so when the inevitable times come that I can’t maintain it. The reason I work on three or four projects at once is because I want them all to be done now. There are few things I hate more than lost time. If I ever Get It Right and achieve all my dreams, I probably won’t be one of those people who counts the journey as time well-spent because it brought me to where I am. More likely, I’ll curse all the time wasted while I was trying to figure things out. I know that, objectively, I’m still fairly young. But time is finite, and like Cutter from Elfquest, I can’t stop counting.
But I know that working on several things at once only means more lost time in the end.
That should be enough for now. Let’s see where we go from here…